This year’s Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (Abace) has been a real eye-opener for a Westerner whose last visit to China was in 2003. Shanghai, where Abace 2012 is being held (it ends on March 29) at host airport Hongqiao International, is a beautiful and huge city.
Aviation in China
China is facing a chronic shortage of pilots to fly its growing fleet of business aircraft. Moderating an ABACE show seminar on crew training in Shanghai yesterday, consultant Christopher Jackson said the current backlog of orders from China indicates a need for an additional 500 to 1,000 private aviation pilots. He said operators in China typically need a ratio of five pilots per aircraft.
With precious little sign of a meaningful economic recovery in the main Western economies of North America and Europe, the business aviation industry is pursuing growth more intently than ever in the emerging markets of the East. Nowhere epitomizes these expectations quite like China, with its soaring corporate and private wealth.
The first Shanghai International Business Aviation Show (Sibas) garnered mixed reviews from its exhibitors, but generally the perception was that it was a success, despite teething problems, such as no food on site and some issues with shipping. However, these were offset by the quality of attendees who showed up and the fact that organizer World Events Agency managed to pull off the show at all.
Last November’s Airshow China in Zhuhai proved both illuminating and encouraging to those who eagerly anticipate the long-awaited emergence of business and general aviation in the People’s Republic. Because, despite all the fuss about China’s potential, the hard data paints the real picture of a sector of aviation that has just barely begun to taxi from the stand.
The U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration is organizing an aerospace supplier development mission to China from October 26 to November 4. The goals of the trip are to introduce U.S. aviation components and materials companies to the aviation industry in China, including policy makers, U.S. aviation-related companies active in China, Chinese companies engaged in building their domestic aviation capabilities, and MROs.
In a recent speech on global harmonization, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey summed up the universal reaction to China’s booming aviation industry: “The world is watching.”
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